CALGARY—Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as water and land use, still pose challenges for Canada’s oil and gas industry, according to a new annual report from one of the nation’s industry associations.
In its 2013 Responsible Canadian Energy progress report, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said despite improvements in other emissions, including nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), GHG emissions remain a big stumbling block for the industry from coast to coast.
In fact, according to the organization’s report, GHG emissions actually increased by about .3 tonnes per square metre nationally in 2012, though it said that was due primarily to increased oil sands production.
Oil sands crude is nine per cent more intensive than the United States crude supply average on a wells-to-wheels basis, according to CAPP.
The term “wells-to-wheels” describes the measurement of CO2 emissions from the start of oil production through to combustion.
The report said oil sands emissions account for 0.14 per cent of GHG emissions globally, and 7.8 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions.
National NOx and SO2 emissions continued to decline last year, largely due to shifts in production mix and implementation of new technologies.
According to CAPP, NOx emissions per barrel declined 18 per cent and SO2 emissions per barrel declined 19 per cent from 2008 to 2012.
The total volume of fresh water withdrawals increased slightly in 2012, while fresh water withdrawals per barrel of crude oil production in Western Canada excluding the oil sands has remained relatively constant over the last four years at an average of 0.5 barrels.
Oil sands drilling operations used 0.4 barrels of fresh water per barrel of bitumen production in 2012 and oil sands mining operations used 3.1 barrels per barrel of bitumen production.
The report said oil sands operators withdrew 167 million cubic metres of fresh water in 2012, of which 116.5 million cubic metres—or 70 per cent—was sourced from Alberta’s Athabasca River, representing 0.6 per cent of the Athabasca River’s 2012 flow of 20.7 billion cubic metres.
CAPP said there is a particular need to manage withdrawals during the winter months due to a significant seasonal variability in the Athabasca River’s flows.
To prevent ecological risks to the river, the Government of Alberta and Fisheries and Oceans Canada restrict the amount of water that can be withdrawn during low flow periods to ensure sufficient flow is maintained in the river.
On land, total surface footprint is increasing as the industry grows.
Technology such as horizontal drilling is helping to mitigate impact by allowing multiple wells to be consolidated onto single drilling pad sites.
The number of active wells in Canada spiked to more than 228,000 in 2012 from 215,000 the previous year.
Oil sands mining occupies 760 square kilometres of land Canada-wide, an area slightly larger than the City of Calgary.
An Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) report states the Lower Athabasca region’s living resources are 94 per cent intact.
The association said .02 per cent of Canada’s boreal forest has been disturbed by oil sands mining operations over the past 40 years.
“Canada’s oil and gas industry is proud of the energy and economic benefits we deliver to Canadians each and every day,” CAPP president Dave Collyer said in the report’s release. “We recognize the need to reduce the intensity of our water use and GHG emissions while maintaining production growth.”